The other day I came across a fantastic article on LifeHacker written by a software developer named Brad Isaac (a fantastic website by the way. If you’re not subscribed to it I advise you to ASAP).
In the article Brad tells of a night he met the Jerry Seinfeld at a club and had the opportunity to ask Seinfeld for any tips that would benefit an up-and-coming comic. What Seinfeld revealed next is a method that he used to motivate himself to write every single day. Don’t worry, I’m not trying to turn you into a writer. The method he revealed can be used to improve any area of your life.
While I was reading through it I was inspired to write a blog post on it’s method because it transferred so well to getting consistent action from your players. It’s something I’ve tried in variation in the past, but a method I never thought to blog about.
Want to know what the method is?
The ‘Don’t Break the Chain’ calendar method.
What is the ‘Don’t Break the Chain’ Calendar Method?
The ‘Don’t Break the Chain’ calendar method is a motivational method that uses a calendar placed in a prominent position (usually on the wall of your room) to track your progress on achieving a daily task. For each day that you achieve this task, you get the privilege of drawing a big cross in the box on the calendar of that day.
The theory behind the method is that as these crosses start to build up, you’ll force yourself to perform the daily activity simply because you do not want the chain of crosses to break. Building momentum.
Let me show you a quick example of how we can apply this method to our basketball players…
Let’s say that you give your players a shooting workout that they must complete every day. They start with a blank calendar, and for every day that they perform the shooting workout, they cross off the day of the calendar.
Pretty simple, ey?
Why is this Method so Effective?
The key to this method consistent action.
The calendar method relies on taking small steps that will add up to big gains in the long run.
Not bombarding your players with a daily basketball workout that consists of shooting 2000 shots per day along with a 45 minute ball-handling workout which they do while it’s new and exciting but then abandon the idea three days later.
Would it be awesome if they did that every day? Absolutely.
But will they do that every day? Absolutely not.
So by small steps I simply mean a reasonably easy workout that your players know they will be able to perform every single day no matter what.
By all means experiment and see how much is too much for your players. The daily minimum is going to vary greatly depending on each player and the level that you’re coaching.
I guarantee that if your players do a little bit every day, it will eventually add up to big improvements. Because as Tony Robbin’s says…
“In essence, if we want to direct our lives, we must take control of our consistent actions. It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently” – Tony Robbins.
Before I go on I want to bring up a quick point that’s probably at the back of your mind…
The whole time I’ve been writing this post I can picture coaches screaming at me; “Small steps!? What do you mean small steps!? No one will become a great player by only making 100 shots per day!”
Believe me, I understand that.
If you set a small, achievable task of only 100 makes per day and 4 days a week the player goes out and makes 1000 shots a day, terrific!
But what if they then wanted to slack off the other 3 days of the week? This method doesn’t allow that. Even on those other days the player must still make those 100 shots.
And what about the less talented players on the team? This method motivates them to get up their 100 shots per day too!
That’s the beauty of this method. Small steps.
Anyway, now that I’ve got that off my chest, let’s move on 🙂
What is the Best Calendar to Use?
Before you do anything else, I advise you select which calendar is going to be the most appropriate for you or your players.
There are two calendar options you and your players can use to track your daily habit progress. But I recommend one much higher than the other…
1. The Wall Calendar
This is by far the best option in my opinion.
A wall calendar will serve as a constant reminder that you need to perform your daily activity every time you see it. Which is why it’s a must that you hang the calendar in a place that you will frequently see it.
If you miss a day, you know that you’ll be feeling guilty about it the rest of the month every time you see the calendar.
Also, it forces you to be accountable because anyone could see the calendar. No one wants people asking them why half of the calendar is filled with red crosses and the other half isn’t.
You can either use a full-year calendar with all 365 days on it, or use a normal 12 month calendar. Jerry Seinfeld recommends using the 365 day calendar, but I like to use the 12 month calendar.
The reason being is that after each month you can assign a new workout to your players. This keeps it fresh and interesting; and also lets you adjust the workout to the current time of year.
There are two option to get a wall calendar. Either buy a calendar or print one off your computer.
Here’s what you to do if you’d like to print it…
If you’re using a Mac (like me), if you go into the calendar application and click Command+P, a perfectly designed calendar will appear for immediate printing.
If you’re on a Windows computer, perform a Google images search for ‘Printable calendar (month) (year)’ and you’ll find many great designs ready for easy printing.
2. A Digital Calendar
A digital calendar means a calendar program on your computer or an app on your iPhone.
I don’t like this option because I think it lacks the accountability factor that the wall calendar provides and it also requires that you remember to do it. You don’t get constant visual cues like you would if you used a wall calendar.
If you miss a day in the digital calendar it’s easy to slide it to the back of your mind and forget about it because most calendars won’t show you the entire month; you’ll just put in a yes/no whether you performed the task that day and that will be the end of it.
Though this can be a good second option if you are someone who travels a lot and it isn’t possible for you to use a wall calendar.
The best free iPhone app I found to keep track is called ‘Way of Life’. I won’t list any others because all of the apps do the same thing and I’m sure you’ve got much better things to do that read about identical apps that offer exactly the same benefits 😉
How to Use this Method
The first thing you’re going to need to do is assign your players their ‘daily basketball homework’. This can be any kind of workout that you want them to perform daily. Remember to make it small and achievable.
Here are some basketball related examples of things you can use the ‘Don’t Break the Chain’ calendar method for…
- Make 100 shots
- 10 minute ball-handling workout
- Watching film
- A vertical jump program
I like to stick to shooting or ball-handling workouts, but I listed the others as other possibilities.
As a side note, this method can be used to monitor any activity that you want to perform daily.
I don’t recommend you assign any non-basketball related activities to your players… but perhaps you would like to start using this method to achieve a goal or habit that you’ve been putting off for a long time?
Here are a few other goals you could use the calendar system for…
- Eating vegetables
- Waking up early
- Eating breakfast
- Stop smoking
- Avoid alcohol
- Avoid soda
Now that you’ve chosen the calendar you’re going to use and picked your daily activity, it’s time to work out how to use the calendar to monitor their progress.
If you’re using the wall calendar (please do), the first thing your players need to do is purchase a big, thick red marker. Each day your players complete their task, they get the privilege of drawing a big red cross through that day.
If you’re using an app, spend some time getting to know how it works. Usually all you need to do is load the app and then click either yes/no if you’ve completed the task or not.
As we went through earlier, this technique can extend far beyond basketball. I’m a big believer in teaching players more than just basketball. This is a method that your players will be able to use for developing many different habits and achieving anything they desire.
I’m currently using it to make sure I get in at least half an hour of reading every day. Excluding right before I go to sleep. I realized reading was an area I could improve on and the calendar method is working wonders in helping me achieve my goal.
Half an hour isn’t much, but it’s a small step that I know I can accomplish every day. I know that without using this calendar system in place I would let it slide and miss out on a ton of great knowledge.
I think your players will find they achieve similar results in regards to their basketball skills.
Remember… small, consistent steps can help you achieve anything.